Some of them took the opportunity to get their feet wet, while others preferred to watch on from the sand.
Irrespective of how they approached it, members of Wollongong’s multicultural communities revelled in the chance to learn about beach safety on Tuesday.
About 45 people – many of them Burmese families new to Australia – took part in the 90-minute safety session hosted by Wollongong City Council and the country’s Royal Life Saving Society.
Participants heard about the importance of swimming between the red and yellow flags, how CPR works and what to do if they find themselves in trouble in the water.
The event, one of a series organised by the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI), was held at Wollongong’s City beach – the very beach where a Victorian father-of-three drowned while trying to save a stranger's children on September 10.
Shaun Oliver, 32, had been walking along the sand when he spotted four children of the Hammad family caught in a rip and rushed to help.
The children made it ashore, but Mr Oliver got into trouble and could not be revived.
The Hammads, who arrived in Australia from Palestine 13 years ago, held a vigil for Mr Oliver at the beach on September 21 – the same day the Good Samaritan’s funeral was held in Melbourne.
The September 10 tragedy wasn’t lost on MCCI multicultural youth coordinator Allyson Pazos.
“There’s been some incidents in the past and … just recently some fatalities on our beaches and that’s something that we’re very aware of and mindful of,” Ms Pazos said.
“Some of our new arrivals have never had the experience of swimming in the ocean, so it’s about teaching them how to do that and enjoy it safely.”
Among those learning about the hazardous nature of the ocean was Alice Zogar, who is only just learning to swim.
The 19-year-old – who lives in Coniston, but is originally from Liberia – said the session offered a valuable insight into what was an unfamiliar environment.
“I never knew that stuff so, yeah, I learnt a lot today,” she said after the session.
Asked if she was scared about swimming at the beach, Ms Zogar replied: “Not really”.
“It’s kind of safer here than in Africa, because there’s no lifeguards ... and here there’s lifeguards and people there to save you, people to help,” she said.
Wollongong City Council’s acting manager of property and recreation Mark Bond said there were inherent risks at all of the city’s beaches.
“We’re really encouraging those new people to the Illawarra to only swim when the flags are up, to never swim alone and to always seek the lifeguards’ advice prior to entering the water,” Mr Bond said.